Just as art can't easily be described, I often find myself trying to find a bullseye of art content vs. center middle to tertiary nodes of art engagement. As of late, I have been more active in the original Magic artwork community, writing, but also brokering art sales. It's a hobby, really, to build a slush fund for future art shows. To say art exhibitions are profitable is a comical thought, knowing that my gas, travel, and fabrication time alone are sizable. Those are things I am willing to do, but it's the cost of last minute framings or needing to rent a last minute van hit the wallet hard.
With the new found joy of helping artists sell art, my gaze now looks back at the collectors themselves. Who are they, what do they do, and what are some lessons to learn from them. I asked four art collectors, two men and two women, to lend me some insight into the art world I can share with you.
First of all, who are you and where could I find you online or on social media?
Jerry: My name is Jerry S. I'm typically on Facebook under my wife's name "Casey Petrillo". We share Facebook. She typically shares the pictures of our dogs, I'm in it for the art groups.
April: Hey there, I'm April King, more frequently known as CubeApril. Most people follow me on Twitter.
Magic art collecting today in 2019. How do you get into it? Where do you start? Any good advice?
Tatiana: I have been collecting original comic art since I was a teenager and have also been playing Magic off and on since I was a kid, but I never put the two together until a friend of mine mentioned to me about six years ago that you could buy Magic originals (shakes fist) and I bought a piece shortly thereafter and the rest is history. I've since also branched out into other illustration work so now I collect a wide variety of art.
Will: I've always been a Magic collector. Collecting Magic cards still appeals to me, but by nature most cards you'd want to collect have many copies. Original artwork, by contrast, is unique; there can only be one copy of an artwork depicted on a card. Owning the only copy of something is truly special, and if you do it for investment, it lets you set the market at the time of resale. I have bought and sold several pieces, but I still have a nice grouping of artwork from the first few sets. I'd recommend picking a focus and sticking with it. It will allow you to become an authority in your niche and prevents FOMO since other good stuff is always passing by.
Jerry: I started collecting Magic art probably around 2011. I played the game as a kid, figure '94 or so through till about '96. I loved the artwork back then which is what drew me in. Back in 2011, I was browsing around on my tablet for a new game to play and saw "Duels of the Planeswalkers". I recognizing the Magic symbol and downloaded it to play. I immediately remembered how much fun the game was. Casey then downloaded it and was hooked too. That Friday, we went to a FNM and played. I was collecting fantasy art for quite some time before then, but never Magic. I put two and two together and started contacting artists. I was shocked to see just how many of my favorites were available and was even more surprised to learn the pricing. I was used to paying a few thousand for published pieces. I snatched up some of my favorites and still collect to this day.
There's quite a lot to be said when it comes to acquiring Magic art. One of the best things to do is be social and get connected. It's a relatively small community. I myself represent a few Magic artists and assist with their sales (Kev Walker, Chris Seaman, James Ryman, and Martina Pilcerova). Plenty of times pieces are offered as a direct sale on the Art Market, so checking in daily, especially during spoiler season can help.
Another thing I recommend is to reach out to artists directly with a list of the pieces they made that you like. You never know if they have them, or they know where they are. I've acquired a couple of my favorites by offering a "finders fee" of 20% of whatever I buy the piece for. It works wonders. Especially to move an artist into action.
April: I got started back in late 2012 with the purchase of Zealous Persecution, by Christopher Moeller. I was clued into it by my good friend Mike Linnemann. That's not the only piece he's hooked me up with: he's also hooked me up with Pay No Heed and Din of the Fireherd.
Following him on Twitter and Cool Stuff Inc. is a great way to get started, along with having a sizable amount of spending cash.
Zealous Persecution by Christopher Moeller
Say I want a specific older Magic artwork, how would you say I would go about finding it?
Tatiana: I'd recommend first doing a general online search and search through ComicArtFans.com to see if it happens to come up. The next place I'd go is to the MTG Art Market group on Facebook as the community there is large and holds a lot of great knowledge about where a lot of pieces are.
Will: Leverage the MtG Art Market community first. People's memories are long and more than one member maintains a database of artworks' whereabouts and market history. I would also contact the original artist - they might still have it!
Jerry: See above - sort of answered this question so not much more to say on it other than be prepared to pay quite a lot. Older Magic art typically starts around $5000+.
April: Assuming that it's a realistic piece, I would absolutely hop over to the MtG Art Market on Facebook. Start with a search there, and if that turns up empty then I would simply ask for leads.
A trend is that Alpha art is getting more expensive. Are there any other sets that people are actively collecting?
Tatiana: I haven't seen specific other sets that are on the same rise as Alpha, but I there is definitely a trend of higher prices for new art for played cards in Master's sets, any cards that are played in popular formats (such as Modern, not so much for Standard) and certain artists are seeing big upswings in their average sold prices.
Will: Arabian Nights has under 100 artworks and Antiquities just about that many. As Alpha becomes unobtainable due to price and unavailability, they'll be next up. High fantasy tropes like dragons and angels will always have a market too.
Jerry: Honestly the market is extremely healthy right now, with collectors collecting a diverse range of artwork - older art, newer art, prelims, color studies, paintings, embellished giclees, you name it. There are collectors for every sub-set there is.
April: In my experience anything from Lorwyn block is a hot commodity. Even back in 2012 when original art was widely available and cheap, it was difficult to find.
What do you collect for your own Magic art collection?
Tatiana: I don't collect specific things. I do tend to collect finished paintings but otherwise I usually collect what catches my eye. I do have a few things I like that I'd eventually like in the collection (certain creature types, legendaries or planeswalkers), but I don't have a certain "type" of thing I collect. I would like to have at least one of each color and different "types" of cards. I'm hoping to get a nice Black card soon (that's the one mono color I don't own yet) and eventually a land. There's also a list of artists I like and I'm hoping to get one from each of them eventually.
Will: Alpha through The Dark. Buying has been pretty slow lately as you could imagine.
Jerry: Personally, I love landscapes. I enjoy pretty much any artwork that catches my eye, so I am not really picky.
April: I tend toward collecting either cute creatures (homunculi, squirrels), and badass women. The majority of my Magic art collection can be seen here.
Opt by John Howe
What's a sweet spot/tactic you have found for good deals?
Tatiana: Well now, why would I want to give any secrets away? LOL. I think I'd say in general to be patient is helpful.
Will: Package deals always help the price a bit. I also value research very heavily. I created a proprietary database of artists and owners using historical data and online resources. From there I went down the line and contacted each individual in hopes of making a deal. It proved very fruitful for a time, though the pieces I targeted are now more or less locked up in collections. If I was a new buyer, however, I would still consider this approach for a different niche.
Jerry: I wrote a bit about this above but generally just try to keep a pulse on the market. You'll get a feel for it after a few months and get the sense of what the market rate is for things. Also, don't be afraid to ask. The "MtG Art Market" on Facebook is an excellent resource and there are passionate collectors who are willing to help answer questions for people looking to get into the hobby. For those just starting out I suggest asking artists direct for any pieces they still have - be it prelims, color studies, or other process art. You can get a real deal buying a piece that they may not have bothered to list on their site or for sale previously.
April: I try to be friends with artists. That's it. I have conversations with them at GPs and on Twitter, I buy their artist proofs, I talk about pieces of theirs that I love. I'm just generally a decent human being to them and they tend to return the favor.
Do you ever trade cards for art, or art for cards?
Tatiana: I haven't up to this point but that doesn't mean I never would.
Will: I have not, but I'm not opposed to it.
Jerry: Sure - I've traded quite a lot of interesting stuff for art. I've traded my services, I've traded other people for their services, I've traded for electronics, framing, cards, a refrigerator (yes a refrigerator!). After all, MtG is a trading card game!
April: Never, but I have traded art-for-art on a few occasions.
Bazaar Trade by Matt Cavotta
Who is an artist you're collecting more art of today vs last year or vs some time ago?
Tatiana: In comic art I have a couple artists I collect more than others (Michael Turner and Ryan Sook), but with MTG art with the overall increase in prices I've found myself having to be very selective so I'm not often able to buy multiples from each artist (I may bid on many pieces from an artist but not win). But there are certainly a handful of artists I really like who I'd buy lots of art from if I could!
Will: At this time I'm mainly collecting non-Magic artists since my period is so oversold. I've branched out into comic book and video game artists.
Jerry: I am definitely collecting more Jesper Ejsing artwork. He has improved so much from his earlier days and he keeps getting fantastic assignments.
April: I try not to own more than one or two pieces by the same artist, since I'm usually limited by wall space. That said, I used to collect a lot of Steve Prescott, whose style I love. Now that I have a few of his pieces, I wouldn't be opposed to finding some more Scott Murphy pieces. His artwork is sublime.
What can $100 $200 $500 $1000 $5000 and or $10000 get for art these days?
Tatiana: I'm answering this in regards to MTG art only, as other illustration art and comic art are very different:
$100 - $500: sketches, studies and prelims
$500- $1000: detailed color studies and some finished paintings occasionally
$5k: most newer paintings can be purchased in this range (I'd give a 2-6k range on most new art unless it is a key piece)
$10k: some key pieces, potentially some legendary or planeswalker pieces (although most are more)
Will: $5000 can unlock most stuff that comes up. Under $2000 you're generally looking at sketches or perhaps color studies. $10,000 and above you can nab iconic pieces or very marquee cards. There is no upper limit there, though.
Jerry: You can find MtG art for pretty much any budget honestly. For $100 you may get lucky and get a pencil piece, but you'll need to be patient and shop around. You could spend that $100 and get a sweet artists proof sketch for that. Artists proofs are just that - given to the artists by WotC to show what their artwork went to create. They get 50 non-foil and 30 foil (I believe) of any card printed. The backs are blank and most artists will sketch on them for a fee.
From $200 up you can generally find process art - be it prelims, pencils, color studies, all the way up to a final painting. Typically, MtG paintings are about $750 and up nowadays, with most falling in the $1500 and up category.
$100: A nice artist proof with a full color sketch
$250: A sketch for a piece of Magic art
$500: A color study, or some old unloved pieces of old Magic art
$1000: A decent but not sought after piece of old Magic art
$2500: Most any new piece of Magic art, unless it's a highly powerful card or crazy good art
$5000: Most any new piece of Magic art, powerful cards and crazy good art included
$10,000: Most any piece of Magic art, unless it's an Alpha or a powerful Vintage/Legacy card
$25,000: Most pieces of art ever, aside from some rare Alphas
$100,000: Almost any piece ever, aside from some extremely rare Alphas
$1,000,000: Probably Black Lotus or something, I dunno. Someone should give me a million dollars and I'll find out.
Briber's Purse by Steve Argyle
Hard to reach/hard to find artists, how do you approach them?
Tatiana: I generally reach out to other collectors first to see what experiences they have with that artist and any recommendations they have.
Will: Carefully and persistently. Sometimes it can take years to get a reply, but generally they are kind and courteous, just not married to social media like many of us.
Jerry: Emailing, mailing, asking friends, reaching out. There are a few that I would love to get in touch with, but are MIA. I'd love to own one of the islands by Eric Peterson, or J.W. Frost (I will pay a large finder's fee FYI! Contact me!)
April: Email or Facebook are usually the best routes. I've sent letters before, but usually email has been my most consistent method.
What's your favorite owned artwork?
Tatiana: For nostalgia factor, my favorite MTG art is my first piece purchased, which is Guttersnipe from Steve Prescott.
Will: Land Tax by Brian Snoddy.
Jerry: Soul Burn from Ice Age by Rob Alexander for sure. I played the card as a kid and I love the artwork.
April: Whew, this is a tough one. From a purely artistic perspective, probably "Evershrike" by Dan Dos Santos. If we're talking personal favorites, it's probably the art for the original "Opt", by John Howe.
What's your favorite artwork from Magic?
Tatiana: Ever? Oh geez, that's tough. Nostalgia is probably going to come into play here as aesthetically there are SO many amazing pieces out there. I think today (tomorrow will be different, I'm sure) I'd go with Unglued Island by Daren Bader. That's always been one of my favorite lands.
Jerry: Goblin Balloon Brigade from Alpha.
April: Pristine Angel, by Scott M. Fischer. It's just nuts good, and I was so close to owning it one time. Maybe someday!
Thanks everyone for stopping by and lending some insights into your world.